Who cares about COBOL?

Spoiler alert: it turns out, many people still love COBOL. Delighted by the response to the recent COBOL is 60 anniversary celebration, Derek Britton looks at the responses and examines this most enduring relationship.


In September 2019, Micro Focus launched COBOL is 60, our celebration of the time-proven programming language. It was a platform for the industry to come together, recognize the longevity of COBOL, and look forward to continued success. But is that the full story?

Turning up the volume

On the plus side, feedback, far and wide, was positive. There’s a lot of love out there for COBOL. Check out stats for just the first few weeks of COBOL60:

– The press covered the COBOL60 story 76 times across the UK, USA/Canada, Germany, Sweden, Finland, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Austria, Czech Republic, Japan, Australia, India, Brazil and China, in many cases translated for the local audience, with a wide range of Micro Focus subject matter experts sharing many insightful articles.

– The TechRadar thought-leadership piece was the highest-viewed English-language article, with over 67 million subscribers. Other publishers carried the story at the same time –

TechBeacon contributed article: COBOL at 60: The legacy and future of the original business language
eWeek DataPoints article: Six reasons COBOL has survived past 60
DevOps.com contributed article: The Bedrock of Digital Transformation
Computing contributed article: COBOL at 60: the past, present, and future of the enduring and evolving programming language
ZDNet article: COBOL turns 60: why it will outlive us all
IT Web article: The language of digital transformation
The Register article: COBOL: 5 little letters…

Note- this is organic traction:  A ZDNET article was shared more than 12,000 times on Facebook. Similarly, nearly 30,000 people shared the articles directly to Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter after reading. Our own Social Media engine roared into life generating millions of impressions over tens of thousands of accounts and the increasingly popular COBOL Programmers Facebook Group (which has grown 20% since January 1st 2019) saw a 5% spike in membership requests.

– More than 800 people registered for the Webinar, and thousands visited the program’s landing page.

The COBOL60 story continues to fill rooms at live Micro Focus events; most recently at Pittsburgh, Toronto, New York City, Sundsvall, Frankfurt, Riyadh and Taipei.


COBOL still rocks – no question!

Sure, it does. Our supporting output includes webinars, white papers, podcasts that double-down on what makes COBOL so special, and durable. The COBOL standard-bearers appreciate two key things. First, COBOL’s #businessability. (OK, I’ve just invented a new word). Designed with the core attributes business needs and adores – readability, portability, business-centricity – it has been the backbone of the most critical IT applications for many years.

The second attribute, a deliberate design feature is #adaptability; being able to refresh, reinvent – to evolve with the times. We must thank the designers for the first element, and then those same inventors plus the standards bodies and vendors (and their customers) for the other. Micro Focus is proud to have played its part in that story since the 1970s. Learn more about COBOL’s secret sauce on the web site.


Why it still matters

The overwhelming goodwill is great, and telling. Yet there will be those less inclined to pop a cork or to express their devotion to COBOL. COBOL remains, for many, not their ideal technical situation. Ambivalent about its future, some would still consider replacing it. These are the same organizations looking to capitalize on containers or cloud. Analysts Canalys noted that world cloud infrastructure spend grew 46% in Q4 2018, while 451Research note that 90% of companies are already there, with 60% of workloads likely to be running on a hosted cloud service this year, But is COBOL a launchpad, or the anchor keeping the enterprise firmly tied to terra firma?

The core issue affecting a smooth passage to a digital future is often not with the COBOL, but with the rigid infrastructure surrounding the application; awkward, outdated technology that cannot support cloud or mobile, let alone the next-generation architectures that lurk beyond the horizon.

So, as our regular webinars and tech tips blogs continue to demonstrate, COBOL’s contemporary nature ensures it can support today’s digital demands across a variety of scenarios. For those who haven’t seen COBOL in action for a while, should really take a look.

Beyond 60

To Micro Focus, and many of our customers, COBOL represents an ethos of modernization – protecting and evolving investments at lower risk, instead of seismic leaps of faith, to meet new business needs. The resurgence in interest in COBOL suggests a more pragmatic approach that IT leaders are looking to take, to more sensibly plan for the future. Why do enterprises still use COBOL?

Whatever the reason, #COBOL still matters at #COBOL60 because #COBOLrocks. As Que Mangus pointed out regarding the next milestone beyond 60, we should be setting the controls for 120 years. COBOL’s viability, applicability and ubiquity make it a perfect platform for supporting today’s digital transformation requirements, and a strong candidate for outlasting any predictions about its lifespan.

As a prophecy from 1960 once fantastically miscalculated,

“It is rather unlikely that Cobol [sic] will be around by the end of the decade.”

We will be continuing to celebrate the COBOL anniversary year in the months ahead. If you want to share your COBOL story with us, get in touch.

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